Shares and shops boost

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH economy's annus horribilis looks set to end on a more cheerful note, with business confidence reviving sharply, share prices reaching record levels and shops reporting buoyant trade, writes Robert Chote.

The Institute of Directors reported yesterday that the number of business people who are more confident about the economy than they were six months ago has increased fourfold since October. Peter Morgan, the director-general, said confidence had been rekindled by the Government's decision to 'go for growth' in September. But confidence was still below June levels and further cuts in interest rates were needed.

Some 38 per cent of directors were more confident than they were six months ago, slightly outnumbering the pessimists.

Retailers continued to report healthy trading in the post-Christmas sales. Store share prices rose and the FT-SE index rose by 20.3 points to close at a record 2847.8. But the British Retail Consortium said shoppers were becoming better at finding bargains and the boost might peter out when spring ranges were introduced.

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